[Home]HowardRheingold

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Writes about the philosophy and implementation of virtual communities. An early user of TheWell. See http://www.rheingold.com/, TheArtOfHostingGoodConversationsOnline, TheVirtualCommunity.


If you want to know what Rheingold's latest thoughts are, there's a nice [interview ] and [conversation] on the DesignForCommunity website. Talks a bit about the ideas behind SmartMobs?.

DerekPowazek, from DesignForCommunity, also has an insightful review on SmartMobs? on Amazon -- JohnKellden


[Smart Mobs] JohnKellden

more on smart mobs : http://hiptop.bedope.com/hunt/raven/index.php?FILTER=pbhagmreb@cbegnybsrivy.pbz&GIMME_ENTRY=402Smart


According to EricBowersox (erbo of jabber.org, ElectricMinds)...

[ElectricMinds] was originally founded back in '95 or thereabouts by HowardRheingold. Their funding got yanked, so Howard sold out to DurandCommunications? (the place I worked for). EMinds used WellEngaged conferencing at the time. We hacked on our own conferencing software, CommunityWare?, until it worked (mostly) like the original system. Then OSS (which is now WebbInteractive?) bought Durand. They turned CommunityWare? into a portal-like system called WebbMe?. And now, on January 31, 2001, WebbMe? will go dark. The community members (including me) are banding together to save ElectricMinds. My part of it is writing [Venice], the new conferencing engine. Venice is intended to eventually encompass a lot of the functionality of the original CommunityWare?.

WebbInteractive? owns Jabber.com (see JabberProject). WebbInteractive?'s stock (NASDAQ:WEBB) isn't doing too well right now. It's all a tangled Webb...

Update: ElectricMinds went "independent" successfully in April of 2001, and still exists today, despite several major interruptions of service caused by disk failures.


The meatballers could quite probably be an actual emergent smart mob, I´ll have to think somewhat more on it, before I can addd more coherence/credence to this notion. JohnKellden

I've heard comments on that, and I'm not sure that we'd fit Rheingold's definition, as there seems to be (Sunir's hitchhiking to the contrary) no real-world actions resultant on our interaction. The [Smart Mobs website] is subtitled "Mobile communication, pervasive computing, wireless networks, collective action" and while we may have MobileCommunications? and WirelessNetworks (which I use to read and write here occasionally), and PervasiveComputing is a point of discussion here, I'm not seeing the collective action. Maintaining an ongoing discussion on online community might be seen as collective action, but I'm not sure. (Of course, I'm not sure I agree with some of the collective action HR used as examples, but if you're investigating phenomena, it doesn't matter if you agree or not with the results of that phenomena.)

There's a crew of geeks here in Lafayette, most of whom work for Purdue, who organize a weekly lunch via email. We have a [protocol draft] and everything. Because we're acting collectively (joining in one place to consume food and argue technology), that's a far better match than meatball. --DaveJacoby

SmartMobs?, NanoCorps?, FreeAgents?, WikiLoggers?, I personally see something emerging out of it, a group of loosely coupled people in nested networks, with temporary alignments of practice, interests and connections. Which memes will emerge out of it ? We´ll see... JohnKellden

Yes, we will. It's all interesting. I think this is the next step in OnlineCommunities. Back in the day, communities were organized around a single mailing list, a single nntp feed or a single server (such as TheWELL), but now, we see DaveWiner and the other WebLoggers? as a community that works off many different computers. It'd becoming distributed. In ends, in means, in protocols. Cool. --DaveJacoby


I think Rheingold and many of the net.pundits, in their haste to document every social change, fail to distinguish between what's so far historically been the case in societies and what is fundamentally different with information technology. While it may be factually interesting that certain social phenomenon are bigger, faster, cheaper, it's not really philosophically interesting. Revolutions happened before without SMS text messages in much the same way. The fact that it can happen so quickly doesn't really make much difference; of course it will happen faster because we have faster communications but it doesn't change the fundamental character of the event.

What is interesting are things like how persistence changes societies, such as location-based services and the end of ForgiveAndForget. It's also interesting to understand how these ideals get destroyed in the PostWELL Internet, such as too much persistence makes searching intractable, thus burying your personal information in noise instead of silence. It's these fundamental information science based changes that begs examination; almost as much as human history. We don't live in the future, we don't even live in the present. We only live at the edge of what's past. -- SunirShah

Do you mean we should devise ways to explore and examine what is qualitatively, the big transitions now ? And if so, how we can expand on that narrow zone between the push/pull of the past, and the pull/push of the future ? --JohnKellden

I've worked with HowardRheingold on a few different projects, and I think he has some very useful insights on the subjects that he covers.

some of Howard's rcent work, worth exploring:


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